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By Subject - History of Science
TitleAuthorDescription
Adolphe Quetelet, Social Physics and the Average Men of Science, 1796-1874Kevin DonnellyAdolphe Quetelet was an influential astronomer and statistician whose controversial work inspired heated debate in European and American intellectual circles. In creating a science designed to explain the “average man,” he helped contribute to the idea of normal, most enduringly in his creation of the Quetelet Index, which came to be known as the Body Mass Index. Kevin Donnelly presents the first scholarly biography of Quetelet, exploring his contribution to quantitative reasoning, his place in nineteenth-century intellectual history, and his profound influence on the modern idea of average.

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Age of Scientific NaturalismBernard LightmanPhysicist John Tyndall and his contemporaries were at the forefront of developing the cosmology of scientific naturalism during the Victorian period. They rejected all but physical laws as having any impact on the operations of human life and the universe. Contributors focus on the way Tyndall and his correspondents developed their ideas through letters, periodicals and scientific journals and challenge previously held assumptions about who gained authority, and how they attained and defended their position within the scientific community.

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Andean Wonder DrugMatthew James CrawfordIn the eighteenth century, malaria was a prevalent and deadly disease, and the only effective treatment was found in the Andean forests of Spanish America: a medicinal bark harvested from cinchona trees that would later give rise to the antimalarial drug quinine. The Andean Wonder Drug uses the story of cinchona bark to demonstrate how the imperial politics of knowledge in the Spanish Atlantic ultimately undermined efforts to transform European science into a tool of empire.

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Listen to Matthew Crawford's interview (podcast) about The Andean Wonder Drug on the New Books Network web site (scroll to bottom of the NBN page for the interview link)
Astronomy in India, 1784-1876Joydeep SenIndian scientific achievements in the early twentieth century are well known, with a number of heralded individuals making globally recognized strides in the field of astrophysics. Covering the period from the foundation of the Asiatick Society in 1784 to the establishment of the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science in 1876, Sen explores the relationship between Indian astronomers and the colonial British. He shows that from the mid-nineteenth century, Indians were not passive receivers of European knowledge, but active participants in modern scientific observational astronomy.

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Brewing Science, Technology and Print, 1700-1880James SumnerHow did the brewing of beer become a scientific process? Sumner explores this question by charting the theory and practice of the trade in Britain and Ireland during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

From an oral culture derived from home-based skills, brewing industrialized rapidly and developed an extensive trade literature, based increasingly on the authority of chemical experiment. The role of taxation is also examined, and the emergence of brewing as a profession is set within its social and technical context.

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British ArboretumPaul ElliottThis study explores the science and culture of nineteenth-century British arboretums, or tree collections. The development of arboretums was fostered by a variety of factors, each of which is explored in detail: global trade and exploration, the popularity of collecting, the significance to the British economy and society, developments in Enlightenment science, changes in landscape gardening aesthetics and agricultural and horticultural improvement. Arboretums were idealized as microcosms of nature, miniature encapsulations of the globe and as living museums. This book critically examines different kinds of arboretum in order to understand the changing practical, scientific, aesthetic and pedagogical principles that underpinned their design, display and the way in which they were viewed. It is the first study of its kind and fills a gap in the literature on Victorian science and culture.

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Classification of SexDonna DruckerAn original analysis of Alfred C. Kinsey’s scientific career that uncovers the roots of his research methods. Donna J. Drucker describes how Kinsey’s enduring interest as an entomologist and biologist in the compilation and organization of mass data sets structured each of his classification projects. As she shows, Kinsey’s scientific rigor and his early use of data recording methods and observational studies were unparalleled in his field. Those practices shaped his entire career and produced a wellspring of new information, whether he was studying gall wasp wings, writing biology textbooks, tracing patterns of evolution, or developing a universal theory of human sexuality.

Winner, 2015 Bullough Book Award from the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality
Communicating PhysicsJosep SimonWinner of the Marc-Auguste Pictet Prize, 2010

The textbooks written by Adolphe Ganot (1804–1887) played a major role in shaping the way physics was taught in the nineteenth century. Ganot's books were translated from their original French into more than ten languages, including English, allowing their adoption as standard works in Britain and spreading their influence as far as North America, Australia, India and Japan.

Simon's Franco-British case study looks at the role of Ganot's two textbooks: Traité élémentaire de physique expérimentale et appliquée (1851) and Cours de physique purement expérimentale (1859), and their translations into English by Edmund Atkinson. The study is novel for its international comparison of nineteenth-century physics, its acknowledgement of the role of book production on the impact of the titles and for its emphasis on the role of communication in the making of science.

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Communities of Science in Nineteenth-Century IrelandJuliana AdelmanThe nineteenth century was an important period for both the proliferation of "popular" science and for the demarcation of a group of professionals that we now term scientists. Of course for Ireland, largely in contrast to the rest of Britain, the prominence of Catholicism posed various philosophical questions regarding research.

Adelman’s study examines the practical educational impact of the growth of science in these communities, and the impact of this on the country’s economy; the role of museums and exhibitions in spreading scientific knowledge; and the role that science had to play in Ireland’s turbulent political context.

Adelman challenges historians to reassess the relationship between science and society, showing that the unique situation in Victorian Ireland can nonetheless have important implications for wider European interpretations of the development of this relationship during a period of significant change.

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Correspondence of John Tyndall, Volume 2Melinda BaldwinThe 161 letters in this volume encompass a period of dramatic change for the young John Tyndall, who would become one of Victorian Britain’s most famous physicists. They begin in September 1843, in the midst of a fiery public conflict with the Ordnance Survey of England, and end in December 1849 with him as a doctoral student of mathematics and experimental science at the University of Marburg, Germany.
Correspondence of John Tyndall, Volume 3Ruth BartonIn the period covered by this volume, Tyndall completed his degree, published his first scientific papers, became a regular participant in the British Association meetings, established friendships with leading men of science in Berlin and London, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society. As the volume ends, he was preparing his first lecture to the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the catalyst for a profound transition in his life. The letters offer a behind-the-scenes view of nineteenth-century publishing processes, the practices and challenges of diamagnetic research, the application procedures for university positions, the use of patronage in establishing a scientific career, and the often anxious and weary-worn personality of Tyndall, the ambitious protagonist.
Correspondence of John Tyndall, Volume IGeoffrey CantorThe 230 letters in this inaugural volume of The Correspondence of John Tyndall chart Tyndall’s emergence into early adulthood, spanning from his arrival in Youghal in May 1840 as a civil assistant with just a year’s experience working on the Irish Ordnance Survey to his pseudonymous authorship of an open letter to the prime minister, Robert Peel, protesting the pay and conditions on the English Survey in August 1843.
Crown and the CosmosDarin HaytonMaximilian I used astrology to help guide political actions, turning to astrologers and their predictions to find the most propitious times to sign treaties or arrange marriage contracts. Perhaps more significantly, he employed astrology as a political tool to gain support for his reforms and to reinforce his own legitimacy and that of the Habsburg dynasty. Hayton analyzes the various rhetorical tools astrologers used to argue for the nobility, antiquity, and utility of their discipline, and how they strove to justify their “science” on the grounds that through its rigorous interpretation of the natural world, astrology could offer more reliable predictions.

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Cult of PythagorasAlberto MartinezMartínez discusses various popular myths from the history of mathematics. Some stories are partly true, others are entirely false, but all show the power of invention in history. Martínez inspects a wealth of primary sources, in several languages, over a span of many centuries. By exploring disagreements and ambiguities in the history of the elements of mathematics, The Cult of Pythagoras dispels myths that obscure the actual origins of mathematical concepts.

Chosen as a major selection by Scientific American Book Club (Library of Science®)

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Domesticating ElectricityGraeme GoodayThis is an innovative and original socio-cultural study of the history of electricity during the late Victorian and Edward periods. Gooday shows how technology, authority and gender interacted in pre-World War I Britain. The rapid take-up of electrical light and domestic appliances on both sides of the Atlantic had a wide-ranging effect on consumer habits and the division of labour within the home. Electricity was viewed by non-experts as potential threat to domestic order and welfare. This broadly interdisciplinary study relates to a website developed by the author on the history of electricity.

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Engineering the Environment David MunnsThis is the first history of phytotrons, huge climate-controlled laboratories that enabled plant scientists to experiment on the environmental causes of growth and development of living organisms. Made possible by computers and other modern technologies of the early Cold War, phytotrons promised an end to global hunger and political instability, spreading around the world to thirty countries after World War II.

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Exploratory ExperimentsFriedrich SteinleIn this foundational study, Friedrich Steinle compares the influential work of Ampère and Faraday to reveal the prominent role of exploratory experimentation in the development of science. Focusing on Ampère’s and Faraday’s research practices, reconstructed from previously unknown archival materials, this book considers both the historic and epistemological basis of exploratory experimentation—and its importance to scientific development.

Winner of the 2017 Ungar German Translations Award from the American Translators Association

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Field LifeJeremy VetterThis book examines the practice of science in the field in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains of the American West between the 1860s and the 1910s, when the railroad was the dominant form of long-distance transportation. Grounded in approaches from environmental history and the history of technology, it emphasizes the material basis of scientific fieldwork, joining together the human labor that produced knowledge with the natural world in which those practices were embedded.

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Free Will and the Human Sciences in Britain, 1870-1910Roger SmithFrom the late nineteenth century onward religion gave way to science as the dominant force in society. This led to a questioning of the principle of free will—if the workings of the human mind could be reduced to purely physiological explanations, then what place was there for human agency and self-improvement?

Smith takes an in-depth look at the problem of free will through the prism of different disciplines. Physiology, psychology, philosophy, evolutionary theory, ethics, history and sociology all played a part in the debates that took place. His subtly nuanced navigation through these arguments has much to contribute to our understanding of Victorian and Edwardian science and culture, as well as having relevance to current debates on the role of genes in determining behaviour.

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Global Scientific Practice in an Age of Revolutions, 1750–1850Patrick ManningThe century from 1750 to 1850 was a period of dramatic transformations in world history, fostering revolutionary change beyond the political landscape. It was an era of rapidly expanding scientific investigation—and profound changes in scientific knowledge and practice also took place. In this volume, an esteemed group of international historians examines key elements of science in societies across Spanish America, Europe, West Africa, India, and Asia as they overlapped each other increasingly.

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Imagined EmpireMi Gyung KimThe hot-air balloon, invented by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, launched for the second time just days before the Treaty of Paris would end the American Revolutionary War. The technological marvel highlighted celebrations of French military victory against Britain and ignited a balloon mania that swept across Europe at the end of the Enlightenment. This frenzy for balloon experiments fundamentally altered the once elite audience for science by bringing aristocrats and commoners together. This book explores how this flying machine not only expanded the audience for science but also inspired utopian dreams of a republican monarchy that would obliterate social boundaries. The balloon was a people-machine that unified and mobilized the people of France, who imagined an aerial empire that would bring glory to the French nation.

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James Watt, ChemistDavid Philip MillerIn the Victorian era, James Watt became an iconic engineer, but in his own time he was also an influential chemist. Miller examines Watt’s illustrious engineering career in light of his parallel interest in chemistry, arguing that Watt’s conception of steam engineering relied upon chemical understandings.

Part I of the book—Representations—examines the way James Watt has been portrayed over time, emphasizing sculptural, pictorial and textual representations from the nineteenth century. As an important contributor to the development of arguably the most important technology of industrialization, Watt became a symbol that many groups of thinkers were anxious to claim. Part II—Realities—focuses on reconstructing the unsung "chemical Watt" instead of the lionized engineer.

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Life OrganicErik PetersonThis book tells the forgotten story of the pursuit of a Third Way in biology, known by many names, including “the organic philosophy”—including the scientists who defined and refined it and its persistence into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It considers the creation of the subfield of epigenetics, a product of Third Way thinking, rooted among a group of scholars known as the Theoretical Biology Club. And it raises significant questions about how we should model the development of the discipline of biology.

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Making of British Anthropology, 1813-1871Efram Sera-ShriarVictorian anthropology has been derided as an "armchair practice," distinct from the scientific discipline of the twentieth century. But the observational practices that characterized the study of human diversity developed from the established sciences of natural history, geography and medicine. Sera-Shriar argues that anthropology at this time went through a process of innovation which built on scientifically grounded observational study. Far from being an evolutionary dead end, nineteenth-century anthropology laid the foundations for the field-based science of anthropology today.

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Making of Modern Anthrax, 1875-1920James StarkFrom the mid-nineteenth century onwards a number of previously unknown conditions were recorded in both animals and humans. Known by a variety of names, and found in diverse locations, by the end of the century these diseases were united under the banner of "anthrax." Stark offers a fresh perspective on the history of infectious disease. He examines anthrax in terms of local, national and global significance, and constructs a narrative that spans public, professional and geographic domains.

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Medical Trade Catalogue in Britain, 1870-1914Claire JonesBy the late nineteenth century, advances in medical knowledge, technology and pharmaceuticals led to the development of a thriving commercial industry. The medical trade catalogue became one of the most important means of promoting the latest tools and techniques to practitioners. Drawing on over 400 catalogues produced between 1870 and 1914, Jones presents a study of the changing nature of medical professionalism. She examines the use of the catalogue in connecting the previously separate worlds of medicine and commerce and discusses its importance to the study of print history more widely.

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Medicine and ModernismL. S. JacynaAn in-depth study of the English neurologist and polymath Sir Henry Head (1861–1940). Head bridged the gap between science and the arts. He was a published poet who had close links with such figures as Thomas Hardy and Siegfried Sassoon. His research into the nervous system and the relationship between language and the brain broke new ground.

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Natural History Societies and Civic Culture in Victorian ScotlandDiarmid FinneganWinner of the Frank Watson Prize in Scottish History, 2011

The relationship between science and civil society is essential to our understanding of cultural change during the Victorian era. Science was frequently packaged as an appropriate form of civic culture, inculcating virtues necessary for civic progress. In turn, civic culture was presented as an appropriate context for enabling and supporting scientific progress. Finnegan's study looks at the shifting nature of this process during the nineteenth century, using Scotland as the focus for his argument. Considerations of class, religion and gender are explored, illuminating changing social identities as public interest in science was allowed—even encouraged—beyond the environs of universities and elite metropolitan societies.

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Old Age, New ScienceHyung Wook ParkThis book focuses on the “biosocial visions” shared by early gerontologists in American and British science and culture from the early to mid-twentieth century who believed the phenomenon of aging was not just biological, but social in nature. Advancements in the life sciences, together with shifting perspectives on the state and future of the elderly in society, informed how gerontologists interacted with seniors, and how they defined successful aging. Park shows how these visions shaped popular discourses on aging, directly influenced the institutionalization of gerontology, and also reflected the class, gender, and race biases of their founders.

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Popular Exhibitions, Science and Showmanship, 1840-1910Joe KemberVictorian culture was characterized by a proliferation of shows and exhibitions. These were encouraged by the development of new sciences and technologies, together with changes in transportation, education and leisure patterns. The essays in this collection look at exhibitions and their influence in terms of location, technology and ideology.

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Recreating NewtonRebekah HiggittHiggitt examines Isaac Newton's changing legacy during the nineteenth century. She focuses on 1820–1870, a period that saw the creation of the specialized and secularized role of the "scientist." At the same time, researchers gained better access to Newton's archives. These were used both by those who wished to undermine the traditional, idealised depiction of scientific genius and those who felt obliged to defend Newtonian hagiography. Higgitt shows how debates about Newton's character stimulated historical scholarship and led to the development of a new expertise in the history of science.

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Regionalizing ScienceSimon NaylorVictorian England, as is well known, produced an enormous amount of scientific endeavour, but what has previously been overlooked is the important role of geography on these developments.

Naylor seeks to rectify this imbalance by presenting a historical geography of regional science. Taking an in-depth look at the county of Cornwall, questions on how science affected provincial Victorian society, how it changed people’s relationship with the landscape and how it shaped society are applied to the Cornish case study, allowing a depth and texture of analysis denied to more general scientific overviews of the period.

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Science and EccentricityVictoria CarrollThe concept of eccentricity was central to how people in the nineteenth century understood their world. This monograph is the first scholarly history of eccentricity. Carroll explores how discourses of eccentricity were established to make sense of individuals who did not seem to fit within an increasingly organized social and economic order. She focuses on the self-taught natural philosopher William Martin, the fossilist Thomas Hawkins and the taxidermist Charles Waterton.

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Science and Societies in Frankfurt am MainAyako SakuraiThe nineteenth century saw science move from being the preserve of a small learned elite to a dominant force which influenced society as a whole. Sakurai presents a study of how scientific societies affected the social and political life of a city. As it did not have a university or a centralized government, Frankfurt am Main is an ideal case study of how scientific associations—funded by private patronage for the good of the local populace—became an important centre for natural history.

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Science in an Extreme EnvironmentPhilip ClementsIn 1963, nineteen Americans embarked on the first expedition that would combine high-altitude climbing with scientific research. The primary objective was to study how severe stress at high altitudes affected human behavior. The expedition promised to resurrect American heroism, in a show of physical strength and skill that, when combined with scientific expertise, would dominate international rivals on the frontiers of territorial exploration. They faced hostile conditions that challenged and ultimately compromised standard research protocols, yielding results that were too exceptional to be generalized to other environments. Clements offers an exploration of the impact of extremity on the production of scientific knowledge and the role of masculinity and nationalism in scientific inquiry.
Science Museums in TransitionCarin BerkowitzThis volume explores the transformation of scientific exhibitions and museums during the nineteenth century. Contributors focus on comparative case studies across Britain and America, examining the people, spaces, display practices, experiences, and politics that worked not only to define the museum, but to shape public science and scientific knowledge during this period.

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Science of History in Victorian BritainIan HeskethNew attitudes towards history in nineteenth-century Britain saw a rejection of romantic, literary techniques in favour of a professionalized, scientific methodology. The development of history as a scientific discipline was undertaken by several key historians of the Victorian period, influenced by German scientific history and British natural philosophy. This study examines parallels between the professionalization of both history and science at the time, which have previously been overlooked.

Hesketh challenges accepted notions of a single scientific approach to history. Instead, he draws on a variety of sources—monographs, lectures, correspondence—from eminent Victorian historians to uncover numerous competing discourses.

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Science SecretsAlberto MartínezWas Darwin really inspired by Galápagos finches? Did Einstein’s wife secretly contribute to his theories? Did Franklin fly a kite in a thunderstorm? Did a falling apple lead Newton to universal gravity? Did Galileo drop objects from the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Did Einstein really believe in God? Science Secrets answers these questions and many others. It is a unique study of how myths evolve in the history of science. The book includes new findings related to the Copernican revolution, alchemy, Pythagoras, young Einstein, and other events and figures in the history of science.

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Soviet Space MythologiesSlava GerovitchSoviet Space Mythologies explores the history of the Soviet human space program within a political and cultural context, giving particular attention to the two professional groups—space engineers and cosmonauts—who secretly built and publicly represented the program. Drawing on recent scholarship on memory and identity formation, this book shows how both the myths of Soviet official history and privately circulating counter-myths have served as instruments of collective memory and professional identity.

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Styles of KnowingChunglin KwaNow available in English, Styles of Knowing explores the development of various scientific reasoning processes in cultural-historical context. Kwa organizes his book according to six distinct styles: deductive, experimental, analytical-hypothetical, taxonomic, statistical, and evolutionary. Each chapter explains the historical applications of each style’s unique criterion for good science. Kwa shows also how styles have influenced each other and transformed over time.

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Styles of Reasoning in the British Life SciencesJames ElwickElwick explores how the concept of "compound individuality" brought together life scientists working in pre-Darwinian London. Scientists conducting research in comparative anatomy, physiology, cellular microscopy, embryology and the neurosciences repeatedly stated that plants and animals were compounds of smaller independent units. Discussion of a "bodily economy" was widespread. But by 1860, the most flamboyant discussions of compound individuality had come to an end in Britain. Elwick relates the growth and decline of questions about compound individuality to wider nineteenth-century debates about research standards and causality. He uses specific technical case studies to address overarching themes of reason and scientific method.

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Transit of Venus Enterprise in Victorian BritainJessica RatcliffIn the nineteenth century, the British Government spent money measuring the distance between the earth and the sun using observations of the transit of Venus. This book presents a narrative of the two Victorian transit programmes. It draws out their cultural significance and explores the nature of "big science" in late-Victorian Britain.

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Typhoid in UppinghamNigel RichardsonAfter the Public Heath Acts of 1872 and 1875, British local authorities bore statutory obligations to carry out sanitary improvements. Richardson explores public health strategy and central-local government relations during the mid-nineteenth-century, using the experience of Uppingham, England, as a micro-historical case study. Uppingham is a small (and unusually well-documented) market town which contains a boarding school. Despite legal changes enforcing sanitary reform, the town was hit three times by typhoid in 1875–1876.

Richardson examines the conduct of those involved in town and school, the economic dependence of the former on the latter, and the opposition to higher rates to pay for sanitary improvement by a local ratepayer "shopocracy." He compares the sanitary state of the community with others nearby, and Uppingham School with comparable schools of that era. Improvement was often determined by business considerations rather than medical judgments, and local personalities and events frequently drove national policy in practice. This study illuminates wider themes in Victorian public medicine, including the difficulty of diagnosing typhoid before breakthroughs in bacteriological research, the problems local officialdom faced in implementing reform, and the length of time it took London ideas and practice to filter into rural areas.

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Uncommon ContextsBen MarsdenBritain in the long nineteenth century developed an increasing interest in science of all kinds. Whilst poets and novelists took inspiration from technical and scientific innovations, those directly engaged in these new disciplines relied on literary techniques to communicate their discoveries to a wider audience. The essays in this collection uncover this symbiotic relationship between literature and science, at the same time bridging the disciplinary gulf between the history of science and literary studies. Specific case studies include the engineering language used by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the role of physiology in the development of the sensation novel and how mass communication made people lonely.

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Victorian Literature and the Physics of the ImponderableSarah AlexanderThe Victorians are known for their commitment to materialism, evidenced by the dominance of empiricism in the sciences and realism in fiction. Yet there were other strains of thinking during the period in the physical sciences, social sciences, and literature that privileged the spaces between the material and immaterial. This book examines how the emerging language of the “imponderable” helped Victorian writers and physicists make sense of new experiences of modernity.

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Victorian Medicine and Popular CultureLouise PennerThis collection of essays explores the rise of scientific medicine and its impact on Victorian popular culture. Chapters include an examination of Charles Dickens’s involvement with hospital funding, concerns over milk purity and the theatrical portrayal of drug addiction, plus a whole section devoted to the representation of medicine in crime fiction. This is an interdisciplinary study involving public health, cultural studies, the history of medicine, literature and the theatre, providing new insights into Victorian culture and society.

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Vision, Science and Literature, 1870-1920Martin WillisWinner of the British Society for Literature and Science Annual Prize, 2011
Winner of the Cultural Studies in English Prize, 2012

This book explores the role of vision and the culture of observation in Victorian and modernist ways of seeing. Willis charts the characterization of vision through four organizing principles—small, large, past and future—to survey Victorian conceptions of what vision was. He then explores how this Victorian vision influenced twentieth-century ways of seeing, when anxieties over visual "truth" became entwined with modernist rejections of objectivity.

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World's Fairs on the Eve of WarRobert KargonThis book considers representations of science and technology at world’s fairs as influential cultural forces and at a critical moment in history, when tensions and ideological divisions between political regimes would soon lead to war. It examines five fairs and expositions from across the globe—including three that were staged (Paris, 1937; Dusseldorf, 1937; and New York, 1939–40), and two that were in development before the war began but never executed (Tokyo, 1940; and Rome, 1942).

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